Five Things I Learned About Being A “Real” Author

We’re wrapping up 2017. It’s been a big year for me, personally and professionally. Publishing my first novel has taught me a lot that I never knew about literature–and that’s saying something, considering that I am a teacher of literature! Here are five things that I learned this year:

      1. Reviews Are Important – I never really thought about reviewing novels before. I honestly never gave it a second thought; especially the novels by best-selling authors. But once I became an author, I realized how important reviews are. Aside from the fact that reviews help put your novel out there for other people, reviews teach you important things about your own writing. A lot of my friends have read my book, but I don’t know anything about what they thought. I don’t know which characters they loved or hated, which parts they wished had been longer, and which jokes they thought were annoying. A good, honest review is very valuable to an author and really helps them hone their craft.

2. Writing is a LOT of work – Boy, is it a lot of work. It takes hours to write a draft of a chapter. Then it takes more hours to revise that chapter. Your average novel is 25 – 30 chapters long. That can be 180 hours just to write your first draft. If you were working a regular 40-hour workweek, that’s almost a month. And that’s just the first draft. That doesn’t count your own revisions before you send it off to an acquisitions editor, who may or may not request additional revisions before offering a contract. Then, there are additional revisions to be made. When you and your publisher finally agree on all the revisions, then there’s another final proofreading read-through. It takes forever. I signed my contract for Don’t Ask Me to Leave in July. It wasn’t published until March of the following year, and somebody was working on something pretty much up until that date.

3. You Can’t Do It Alone – It’s funny. Writing is one of the most social anti-social professions I’ve ever seen. You have to write the manuscript yourself, sure. But from there, you can’t do it alone. You rely on so many others along the way. You rely on the help of your editor, your publisher, your cover art designer, and countless other people to get the book on the shelves (or to digital readers), but it doesn’t stop there. Once the book is published, you need the help of others to help get the word out about your book. Again, I feel guilty about this one. I so rarely shared good books I read with other people (and in a way, it’s kind of my job). In 2018, I’m making a much bigger effort to share with others.

4. Where You Sell Matters – Again, I hadn’t really thought about this one. I figured it all worked pretty much the same way. I also didn’t think much about print versus eBooks. A book was a book, or so I thought. But as it turns out, some companies are a lot more friendly to authors (like Amazon). And it also matters how you sell. For example, if someone gets the book on Kindle and only reads 1/3 of it, you don’t make as much money than if they read the whole book (which means it’s definitely worth your while to work hard on making the book engaging!)

5. You Have To Keep an Open Mind – If you had told me three years ago that I would write and publish a contemporary romance novel, I’d have laughed in your face. I don’t read romance novels, as a rule. I don’t even watch “chick flick” movies. I always figured I’d write YA fantasy . . . but here I am. I’ve learned that you have to keep an open mind, no matter what. For example, I see my character one way, but an editor might not. If I’m open to suggestions, we might both be able to come to a much more beneficial interpretation.

What about you? What do you wonder about the publishing world?


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